Employees made a grisly discovery in the guinea pig pen at the Valley Zoo Wednesday morning.
Sixty-five guinea pigs were found dead in their pen from what zoo officials believe was a deliberate poisoning.
“This is a very serious matter and while the cause of death is still being determined, the fact that many of these died almost simultaneously is suspicious,” said Dean Treichel, the zoo’s operations supervisor. “We believe the animals died after eating poisoned oranges that were placed in the animals’ enclosure.”
Treichel said the animals were checked in the evening, as per zoo protocol, and were all still alive and healthy at that time.
“When the animals were checked the following morning, 64 were dead and eight were alive,” he said. “One of the eight passed away later in the morning leaving behind seven of the animals.”
Zoo employees called police shortly after making the discovery.
“Police believe the oranges that were found in the pen were laced with some sort of poisonous substance,” said Patrycia Thenu, a police spokesperson.
“Toxicology tests are being done and they’ll take a while to complete.”
The maximum charge in a case like this would be cruelty to animals and possibly a trespassing or break and entering charge.
“This is an unusual incident and police are not aware of similar incidents in the past,” Thenu said.
Treichel confirmed that the possible poisoning was a first for the Valley Zoo and staff members are upset over the finding.
“The Valley Zoo staff here are very upset by this,” Treichel said. “I can’t believe that somebody could be this callous. I don’t know who would do this. Certainly nobody that has any care or respect for animals.”